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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 8 (December 1, 1927)

Glimpses of West Coast Scenery. — (Concluded.) — Greymouth And District

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Glimpses of West Coast Scenery.
Greymouth And District

About a mile from Punakaiki beyond the bluff where the blow holes and rock formations are situated, lies Pororari Beach. Here excellent surfing is to be obtained and the beach is greatly resorted to during the summer months for this purpose, by holiday-makers. Some five miles distant by bridle track is Brighton (Tiromoana) and Fox's River, where, if time and circumstance permit, the visitor may make an excursion up the picturesque gorge of the Fox to the beautiful Brighton Caves, which, though relatively smaller, compare very favourably with the limestone wonders of Waitomo.

Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki

Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki

Mitchell's and Lake Brunner.

“….glory of broad waters interfused….

And over all the great wood rioting

And climbing, streak'd or starr'd at intervals

With falling brook or blossom'd bush-and last

Framing the mighty landscape to the west,

A purple range of mountain cones….”


Lake Brunner can be visited by means of two routes, that is, by going to Moana by rail or motor, or by car direct to Mitchell's on the western shore.

The twenty-six mile motor drive to Mitchell's is undoubtedly one of the finest excursions that can be made from Greymouth, providing as it does, a wealth of scenic charm with a plentitude of historic interest.

The tourist travelling by the Old Marsden Road route finds himself, when only two miles out of Greymouth, in the heart of the forest. Upon reaching the township of Marsden, the road commences the long ascent over No Name (Nemona). From a vantage-point on the crest of the rise over No Name there is a magnificent view upon looking back towards the township. This Old Marsden Road, and the grass-grown route over the No Name are unequalled for forest scenery.

The descent is made into the valley of the Hohonu, thence to almost deserted Greenstone (Pounamu), the ghost of a once populous mining town—a one time rendezvous favoured of the old-time Maori in quest of the prized pounamu from which they fashioned their various tools and weapons of war. It is a remarkable coincidence that at Greenstone, there should be found in fairly close proximity, minerals of which the one was eagerly sought by the pakeha, the other prized of the old Maori.

From Pounamu to Mitchell's the road lies for the most part through towering forest; the Eastern Hohonu is crossed and after a short climb the descent is made to the lake. The first glimpse of the lake when nearing Mitchell's is a splendid scene—the broad expanse of waters vignetted by the forest trees, and in the blue distance the serried ranks of the Southern Alps.

The beautiful Mitchell's Falls are within easy distance and are well worth a visit. The track commences immediately opposite the accommodation house, following the course of a bush stream, and the falls which are remarkable for their lace-like beauty, are reached at a distance of less than a quarter of a mile.

A favourite launch excursion is that to the mouth of the Orangi-Puka River, while energetic visitors will be rewarded with a magnificent panorama upon climbing the wooded slopes of the Hohonu range.

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Good fishing is to be obtained in the lake and the various tributary streams, notably the Orangi-Puka. Swan and wild duck abound, and excellent sport in the nature of wild pig and goat shooting may also be indulged in.

The return journey from Mitchell's may be varied by proceeding via Westbrook and the old goldfields of Kumara, thence by the Main South Road to Greymouth, or, launch may be taken to Moana on the opposite shore, and the remaining section of the trip down the Grey Valley completed by rail or motor.

Looking up the Arnold River (near Kotuku), West Coast.

Looking up the Arnold River (near Kotuku), West Coast.

The Otira and Arthur's Pass.

“I waited underneath the dawning hills,

Aloft the mountain lawn was dewy dark,

And dewy-dark aloft the mountain pine….

Far-off the torrent called me from the cleft:

Far up the solitary morning smote

The streaks of virgin snow.”


Mere words are inadequate to describe the “glory that is Otira,” but the traveller who chooses the old coach route from Greymouth through the historic old diggings and the Teremakau Valley, is assured of an interesting run through some of the finest natural scenery on the West Coast.

Leaving Greymouth, the tourist passes through the old mining towns of Kumara and Dilman's, then eastward along the valley of the Teremakau. After passing Dilman's, the road lies for several miles through typical native bush until comparatively open country is reached in the vicinity of Wainihinihi. Beyond Wainihinihi the road passes through magnificent forest avenues to Jackson's. Looking northwards one may discern the silver sheen of the waters of Lake Brunner in the distance, nestling at the base of the rugged, bush-clothed Hohonu Range.

From Aicken's, the next settlement, the route lies up what may be considered as the lower Otira Valley. To the left rise the steep wooded ramparts of the Alexander Range dominated by Alexander—a symetrical snow-capped peak standing sentinel-like, near the junction of the Otira and the Teremakau, while immediately above the road tower the forest-mantled buttresses of the Kelly Range.

Leaving Otira, the Westland terminus of the longest tunnel in the British Empire, the road ascends the famous Gorge. Narrow and precipitous it is, and at the bottom of the canyon swirl the turbulent waters of the Otira. Tangled evergreen forest drapes the steep mountain walls, and ultimately gives way to snow-crested crags and pinnacles.

Through the waist of the Gorge, by leafy cliffs, past the gauzy “Bridal Veil” fall—whose silvery spray bedews the surrounding fern, the road climbs steeply up the famous “Zig Zag” to the summit of the Pass. Hundreds of feet below, the Otira River, now a foaming mountain torrent, roars amid the boulders of its tortuous bed. High up, looms the fissured diadem of Mt. Otira—a desolate giant whose seamy slopes are strewn with loose sliding scree almost from summit to base.

The mountain road winds up round the base of Philistine, on whose rocky shoulders is draped the Rolleston Glacier, and proceeding, the roar of the now tiny Otira Stream dies away, and the Pass proper is entered. Past tiny glittering tarns until presently the narrow path descends from the “col” through glossy beech forests to the valley of the Bealey. On the right are the wooded spurs of Mount Rolleston (7,453 feet), the alpine monarch of this region. From a coigne of vantage—the “Rolleston Look-Out”—the mountain seen through the parted boughs of the wayside beech trees, presents a wondrous spectacle of sublime grandeur—a superb and lovely picture.

Presently the gorge of the Bealey opens out upon the lower valley, and the traveller descends to Arthur's Pass settlement. For those who would explore the many beauties of this mountain region, Arthur's Pass township provides a comfortable and ideal base. To the alpinist it offers unlimited attractions in the nature of mountain peak and glacier, and the field for original work is wide. To the nature-lover, and all who appreciate exceptional scenery, it is unparalleled, and with its increasing popularity, Arthur's Pass and the Otira district generally, bids fair to become one of New Zealand's foremost alpine playgrounds.

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Giant Gate River running into Lake Ada, Milford Track.

Giant Gate River running into Lake Ada, Milford Track.